MEXICO CITY -- The sun hasn't even risen and the clang of metal is reverberating through a gym near Mexico City. On a frantic mission to sculpt his body, Carlos Suárez powers through another day of his heavy weight routine.
There is not much time left before Suárez will be the first Mexican to participate in the body-building competition at the Pan American Games, which begin July 26 in Peru.
Suárez starts his workout before dawn and spends six hours every day getting his body in peak shape for the games. Combined with his other work and family responsibilities, the workers' rights lawyer and law professor doesn't take many breaks.
"It's tough but I think it's worth it for this dream," Suárez said during an interview at his home in Toluca, about 40 miles (63 kilometers) from Mexico's capital. "I have a big responsibility in being able to represent the country and I'm working hard to be able to finish with a good result."
This year's games mark the first time that bodybuilding is included as an official competition, after being a demonstration sport at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. For now, it's not included as part of the official competitions for the 2023 games in Chile, and it has yet to be included in the Olympics.
"It's going to be a historic moment for my sport ... It's something very beautiful, it will be a party for my sport," Suárez said.
Another Mexican, Xiomara Valdivia, will take part in this year's Pan American Games in the women's fitness category. Both she and Suárez receive basic support from the Mexican Federation of Bodybuilding, but they haven't gotten any government grants.
Without the financial backing that Mexican athletes in more popular sports receive, Suárez has had to juggle between long hours in the gym, the classroom and the courtroom.
"I appreciate how this sport has been a big part of my formation," he said. "I've learned to take advantage of life, which is a short, fleeting moment."
With bodybuilding excluded from the Olympics, it has been looked at as more of an aesthetic discipline than an organized sport, and many people have doubts about it.
When he was 13, he began to get into bodybuilding despite protest from his mother. "She didn't want me to do it because even then and still today the sport has been linked to steroid consumption and other myths," Suárez said.